Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero

Now this… this, we like…


Alex Wisgard: As big a curveball as “Gold Lion”, but at least ten times more dancefloor-friendly, in the best possible way.

Jonathan Bradley: Karen O’s words are not nice (“You’re a zero/What’s your name/No one’s gonna ask you”), but she’s worked out how to sing them with something approaching sympathy. Her delivery is more fragile than ever, and at the points where her voice soars to a spine-melting high note and collides with a diving synth, the song sounds as if it is on the verge of smashing into a thousand tiny pieces. The weird tensions set up within the compact pop structure drive this tune: bleeping electronics and bleeding guitars, a hook both triumphant and crushed, a frontwoman quietly disprited on a song rousingly anthemic. There’s nothing contradictory about its quality, however; “Zero” is quite simply one of the best songs of the year so far.

Keane Tzong: It seems odd to listen to a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song where the instrumental does almost all the work, or, if you want to be more negative, where the letdown comes from the vocal. Karen O doesn’t seem to be putting in too much effort here, and the results are pretty much what you’d expect of a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song with Karen subtracted from the equation: bland, bland, bland. She does, mercifully, make an effort to come alive during the middle eight, but it’s a bit too little, too late.

Martin Kavka: I’ve only ever really liked YYY’s “Maps” before now. But this is so exhilarating, propulsive, and accessible in its use of chord progressions to manufacture and release tension – the sonic equivalent of one of Paul Greengrass’ Bourne films – that this just might quite possibly the best song ever written. Bonus point for Karen O dancing just like Katrina in the “Walking On Sunshine” video.

Alex Macpherson: It’s Blitz is my second favourite album of 2009 so far, but ‘Zero’ is a merely passable lead single which gives few indications of the brilliance in store. It starts promisingly – buzzsaw riff, syncopated rhythm, Karen O preening, pouting and strutting – but gives itself up too soon. The chorus drifts up and away just when it needs to resolve, as if the band can’t wait to get to the more expansive aesthetic of the rest of the album despite ‘Zero’ being a punky stomper at heart; Karen O follows the melody in losing focus, and the song is left to be propped up by a scrawling guitar line whose broad, bold strokes can’t quite disguise a slightly underwhelming hook.

Ian Mathers: No, look, I know they’re supposed to be a trashy rock band or whatever, but I DON’T CARE. Show Your Bones was a good album, but this is just so much more exciting than anything on there. Their synthier new direction is absolutely the best direction they could have taken, assuming they keep coming up with songs as good as this and “Hysteric.” Hell, I like the middle eight bit of this better than the chorus of most songs. All due respect to the other two, but between her vocal and video performances, Karen O is one of my favourite people in rock right now (and I never got the appeal before).

Hillary Brown: Despite its negative lyrics, this new Yeah Yeah Yeahs track evokes nothing so much as an army of robotic bees pollenating fields and fields of flowers, spreading life and fertility across the globe, and it kind of just keeps getting better.

Additional Scores

John M. Cunningham: [7]
Doug Robertson: [10]
Jordan Sargent: [8]
Martin Skidmore: [10]

5 Responses to “Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero”

  1. Why are the lyrics negative? It seems to me that it’s a call to assert one’s idiosyncratic individuality — one’s name — and not to be one of the “zeroes”, one of the faceless masses. To strive for success over and above personal authenticity only produces shellshock. Very empowering stuff, perhaps.

  2. ‘Zero’ is loads better with the video btw – but whenever I listen to It’s Blitz, which is…a lot, I always always start with ‘Heads Will Roll’.

  3. Yeah, I don’t find the song negative at all, although in addition to Martin’s reading I think there’s also the sense of being a ‘zero’, a faceless nobody, in the sense of the communality of the crowd at, say, a rock show… the video and the “get your leathers on” part makes me think of that, a kind of gleeful embrace of Dionysian mindlessness.

  4. Word to Lex. Indeed, I wonder whether my love for “Zero” is in part due to the “Hey Ya!” effect of the video — crowd noise makes everything More Exciting and Urgent.

  5. That would be me not paying enough attention to the lyrics. Errps.